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Lebanon: Where Do We Go From Here? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Threatening civil war in the morning and retracting the threats at night, parties praised for being patriotic while others are accused of treachery; the situation in Lebanon has deteriorated to an ugly vicious scene. It has also become clear that no party is willing to offer any concessions to another even if the homeland was razed to the ground and all the people were killed. Lebanon today is witnessing an age in which trust and candor are a thing of the past.

After a civil war that has yet to end and a Syrian occupation that the Lebanese have defined as a guardianship, Lebanon is in desperate need of an overhaul in mindset, land and regime. In the past the Lebanese used to send their children in beat up buses to the school excursions around Lebanon but today these old vehicles resemble Lebanon itself. In fact; people count themselves lucky when they are not killed in an explosion.

The prevalent mistrust and fear drives politicians to aggravate the situation by intensifying their threats whilst relying on their convictions – whether they are true or not. Even when he was on the best terms with the Shiaa, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt was still convinced that they wanted to eliminate him. In his statements, Jumblatt reiterates his sect’s disadvantaged position (small minority) in the midst of a huge population (Shiaa presence) that extends and encircles the region where they [the Druze] have been sovereign for 700 years. This is why Jumblatt sometimes speaks against the sale of land to Shiaa-funded parties, since he believes that it is their plan to divide the Druze region.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has expressed its belief that there is a possibility that it would be subjected to an attack by Israel or the US this spring. The escalation of the situation by the March 14 Coalition Forces came at a time when there was a lull in the international political scene. Perhaps the coalition took it to be the calm before the storm and before settlement, while Hezbollah believed that this calm in the international arena meant that the path was clear for the March 14 Coalition Forces to act.

There is an abundance of questions in need of convincing answers: Does Walid Jumblatt fear the possibility of regional maneuvers before the Arab summit? Was Hezbollah tipped about regional maneuvers so that the escalation caused by the March 14 Coalition Forces came as a surprise? The answers are unimportant since the local players do not trust one another and deal with each other on the basis that Lebanon can no longer contain them all – and this is where the danger lies.

But there is a problem in Lebanon, namely Hezbollah’s arms. Those who are closely affiliated with Hezbollah question: If Hezbollah were to disarm, what would guarantee that figures from its leadership would not end up in Guantanamo, seeing as the party is on the top of the US most-wanted terrorist list?

Moreover, Hezbollah demands a large share of the Lebanese regime and feels that it constitutes- and is entitled to- one-third. It also views itself as the most powerful and believes that no party can help give it what it wants since each party believes that it has a smaller share than it deserves. The conflict today is one about the fate of Lebanon.

International aid was ineffectual since Lebanon is a divided society and the world is forced to deal with an internal division that is growing deeper and more firmly rooted. It is not accurate to say that parties in the Lebanese society are foreign agents; within Lebanon there is a struggle over power between all parties in which all the involved sides believe that the other is conspiring against them to annihilate them. This is why it has become a struggle for survival between fellow Lebanese citizens.

But in order for that conflict not to turn into a Sunni-Shiaa sectarian conflict, some commentators have started to divert the attention towards the March 14 Coalition Forces that wants to burn Lebanon down for the sake of Bkerke [the See of the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate]. This instigation has evoked concern amongst some parties that believe that in attempting to ease the tension, the situation might become aggravated and drive Christians to reach a decision amongst their selves, in one way or another, and that a single leader would emerge in the aftermath. This can only be followed by weakening what is already weak and unstable – the military institution and the security authorities – and thus the dismantling of Lebanon would begin.

Managing partner at Information International, Jawad Adra said, “There is an absolute lack of confidence and mistrust that is constantly reflected by all parties at all times. If the opposition’s proposal is the problem, then it must be acknowledged that this third [the opposition] cannot disrupt the course of the tribunal since it now has its own special mechanisms and no one is capable of stopping it. If it is terminated then it will be for reasons that have nothing to do with the Lebanese government.”

He added that, “In terms of the pro-government majority, it cannot force Hezbollah to disarm. Even if the councils were to convene and try to impose the decision, it cannot be imposed. And even if the cabinet were to convene and the majority wanted Hezbollah’s disarmament, it still cannot implement such action. The opposition could hinder the appointment of the army chief or the managing directors [of ministerial bureaus], since it is entitled to a large portion of votes and also because it is still fighting over what remains of state gains.”

Therefore, from the perspective of the local players, the opposition represents the struggle over power, survival and increased shares in the system. This struggle reveals the strength of each party inasmuch as it reveals their mistrust of one another. For Jumblatt; it is a struggle for existence whilst Hezbollah and General Michel Aoun are fighting for dominance and influence. As for international and regional players; it is an excuse to resume their game of regional hegemony.

Perhaps Jumblatt’s address last Sunday brought about a “balance of terror”, so as to prevent parties from slipping into a civil war – however, the problem still exists.

In the past, crises used to fade after reaching an equation that would invariably act as a bridge to calm the inflamed issues starting from “no east and west [Beirut]” and “no winners and losers”, to the Cairo Agreement and the Taif Agreement.

According to Adra, “In the past, ‘equations’ were born of regional-international understandings; it was never the outcome of an understanding reached amongst Lebanese politicians. However now, the two parties [regional and international] have different positions and are distanced from one another. Moreover, Syria and Saudi Arabia are not on good terms and relations between them the US and Iran are not good either. First came the Taif Agreement then the Madrid Conference. Now the time has come to consider Madrid II or Madrid III. And since there are no signs of either conference on the horizon then the status quo in Lebanon will remain unchanged – and that is the best they can do. If the politicians continue to manage the crisis in the same manner and using their own methods, they would be regarded as ‘heroes’ but the problem is that their nerves are starting to become frayed and their suspicion and mistrust of one another is intensifying and we now hear alarming statements being made. No one can manage a crisis and maintain composure, which is why for a certain period of time there will be no president to head the government and there will be no parliamentary elections. As such, the state will become more fragile and what is left of the central state will break down and result in new trends that will be employed to govern Lebanon. These trends will emerge through leaderships or perhaps even corporations such as the case in Iraq!”

Last Thursday was the third anniversary since Rafik Hariri’s assassination and since then Lebanon has become a feather in the wind that is being controlled by the winds and whims of regional and international powers searching for their in own interests at the expense of the Lebanese people.

It is in Syria, Iran and America’s interest to maintain the status quo; they do not want an immediate solution and want to reach some form of agreement between them – but everyone wants to do it their own way. These parties postpone resolution and this procrastination is costly but the Lebanese people are paying its price.

If the Lebanese leaders were wise they would have refused this to play this game rather than rush to become embroiled in it, they should have waited for Syria, Iran and the US to reach agreement then tell the Lebanese people: Now you can forge an agreement. These leaders should not feel pride since they are the reason that the Lebanese people are currently living on overseas transfers and the funds of different parties.

The game is now known, Hezbollah’s disarmament can never take place without clear and open discourses and concessions. In the case of a civil war, it would be impossible to disarm the party since weapons will become reinforced and Lebanon will witness an arms race that is even more frantic than the present one – and Hezbollah will turn their guns internally.

Moreover, there is no stopping the tribunal, which has already commenced and Jerusalem cannot be liberated and it is not allowed to topple the Syrian regime.

Lebanese politicians must return to the land of reality. When matters reach the boiling point, the US will send ships – to evacuate its citizens, no more. And whether we like it or not, those affiliated to Hezbollah and the pro-Syrian Lebanese represent half of the Lebanese population. Thus, it would be best to avoid any further deterioration and let the Lebanese leadership propose a system that can save the state.

Civil war is not the solution but secularism might be. There are no impoverished sects in Lebanon but there are now social segments that suffer underprivileged conditions.

Let there be opportunity for competition between real competencies that do not classify one another in accordance with the sects they are affiliated to. The Christians parties who feel apprehension towards Michel Aoun’s relationship with Hezbollah should demand that the general guarantee consent that Lebanon will follow a secular regime – otherwise, there will be a civil war every 10 years.